WASHINGTON — Under pressure from a series of pointed
questions during a forum for minority journalists, President Bush
said Friday he believes colleges and universities should not use
“legacy” status as a factor in admissions.
Bush’s remarks came during a question-and-answer session
with a panel of minority journalists following an address at the
UNITY 2004 conference. Bush has not previously taken a public
position on the use of “legacy” status, a practice in
which colleges offer an advantage to applicants whose parents or
siblings have attended the school.
During a lengthy discussion on University admissions and
diversity, Bush said he opposes “quota systems” but
supports efforts to increase diversity.
When panel member Roland Martin asked the president whether
colleges should weigh “legacy” status in admissions,
Bush said he did not think “special treatment” should
be given to anyone.
“So the colleges should get rid of legacy?” asked
Martin, a syndicated columnist.
“Well, I think so, yes,” Bush replied. “I
think it ought to be based on merit.”
The University’s admissions policy takes into account
whether an applicant has family members who have attended the
University spokeswoman Julie Peterson declined to comment on
Bush’s remarks, saying it would not be appropriate for the
administration to comment on a political campaign. Regarding the
University’s use of “legacy” status, she said it
is a “very small factor” in admissions.
“We receive many more applications from highly qualified
students than we have space to admit, and we consider a variety of
additional factors in order to select students who will contribute
to an interesting class,” Peterson said. “It is one of
the many aspects of a student’s background that we
Until last year, the admissions policy awarded 20 of 150 points
to underrepresented applicants. Bush opposed that policy,
characterizing it as tantamount to a “quota
But the president was not clear on whether he supports the
University’s current race-conscious admissions policy, which
does not use a point system. While he objected to suggestions that
he opposes affirmative action, Bush avoided saying he supports
“So you support affirmative action but not quotas?”
asked Martin during the discussion.
Bush’s response prompted laughter from audience members:
“I support colleges affirmatively taking action to get
minorities in their schools.”
When asked about a projection by Gen. Tommy Franks – a
former commander who led the invasion into Afghanistan and Iraq
— that American troops would remain in Iraq for two to four
years, Bush dismissed the question.
“He is trying to get me to put a timetable out
there,” the president said of the panel member who asked the
question. “I’m not going to do it, see. And when the
timetable is busted they’ll say, ‘I told you.’
Bush then acknowledged the panel member’s tenacity,
awarding him an “‘A’ for effort.”
Discussing the Iraq war and terrorism, Bush suggested a more
descriptive name for the war on terror.
“We actually misnamed the war on terror,” he said.
“It ought to be a struggle against ideological extremists who
do not believe in free society, who happen to use terror as a
weapon to try to shape the conscience of the free world.”
Bush’s reception from the crowd of minority journalists
was at times less enthusiastic than it was for Sen. John Kerry, the
Democratic presidential nominee, who addressed the same convention
Thursday to hearty applause.
“It was a different climate than for Kerry,” said
Lori Cheatham-Thomas, a broadcast journalism student who attended
both speeches. “We weren’t cheering (for Bush) …
it wasn’t warm, but it was respectful.”
Jack Chang, a reporter for the Contra Costa Times, said some
journalists in the crowd mocked Bush as he spoke. But Chang said
journalists who were not writing about the event should not be
criticized for expressing their reactions.
“Journalists have opinions on things … that’s
how it is,” he said.
Nicole Shum, a journalism student at the University of
California Los Angeles, said the reaction to Bush in the overflow
room, where she and several hundred other journalists watched the
address on closed-circuit television, was “no-holds-barred
“Whether that kind of discredits us as professionals
… it might,” Shum said.